Students explore alternative scholarship opportunities
Local, national scholarships supplement University aid, Greek organizations offer assistance to support students
For some, college — with its enormous financial costs — never seemed to be a possibility.
Hawa Ahmed, a third-year College student and QuestBridge scholar, was one such student.
“QuestBridge kind of lifts low-income students up and says you can go to college if you have the scores,” Ahmed said. “In my case, I just always thought that I wouldn’t be able to go to college.”
Though many students obtain aid packages through AccessUVa, the University’s flagship financial aid program, and a select few are awarded merit scholarships through the Jefferson Scholars Foundation, outside sources of funding play an important role for many University students.
Such grants come from a combination of community programs, statewide programs and even national organizations such as QuestBridge.
“Any student who receives financial aid knows
that there’s some chance that each year your
financial aid can change — so that was comforting
to know that I had it guaranteed for each year,” Ensign said.
Second-year College student Kaycee Ensign, who receives an annual scholarship from IBM, and Ahmed both emphasized the benefits of non-traditional scholarship programs.
“Any student who receives financial aid knows that there’s some chance that each year your financial aid can change — so that was comforting to know that I had it guaranteed for each year,” Ensign said. “Having set scholarships can definitely be more reliable than financial aid, which is somewhat unfortunate.”
Ensign said even smaller scholarships can go a long way in helping cover semester expenses.
“For the past two years, the University has refunded me a portion of the scholarship, which has helped me be able to buy books which is extremely helpful,” Ensign said. “Even $2,000 a year can be helpful in many facets. I am definitely grateful that I have the scholarship, since it’s helped me pay for expenses that would’ve been difficult to come up with myself.”
National programs, in addition to statewide scholarships, are available for low-income students to receive funding. Two of the most well-known are the Posse and QuestBridge Scholarships.
QuestBridge is a national program which, according to its website, aims to “increase the percentage of low-income students attending the nation’s best universities and the ranks of national leadership itself.” Typically, students who apply through QuestBridge “come from households earning less than $60,000 annually (for a typical family of four) and over 71 percent are within the top 5 percent of their class.”
Students can apply to college via QuestBridge either through the College Match program or through the regular decision process. To apply to the College Match program, students are required to submit an application as well as a transcript, test scores, letters of recommendation and several essays.
The University regularly accepts students selected as Questbridge scholars, as well as Posse scholars, who are selected by the Posse Foundation. According to their website, “Posse identifies public high school students with extraordinary academic and leadership potential that may be overlooked by the traditional college selection process.”
According to their website, “Posse identifies
public high school students with extraordinary
academic and leadership potential that may be
overlooked by the traditional college selection process.”
To qualify, a student must be a high school senior who is nominated by his or her high school or another community organization — however, the Posse Foundation emphasizes it is “neither a minority nor a need-based scholarship and does not discriminate based on background.” Selected students receive a four-year, full-tuition scholarship from one of Posse’s partner colleges.
According to University Dean of Admission Greg Roberts, these scholarship programs have a unique relationship with the University.
“These are national programs that are designed to attract high achieving low-income students,” Roberts said. “Each year we enroll about 10 of each, so that’s 20 out of an entire class. These are two programs which are designed to help us identify, attract and enroll high achieving students from underrepresented [populations] who have overcome great obstacles.”
Roberts said most of the students applying through these programs do have some financial need.
“For QuestBridge, these are students that have financial need and for Posse, all or nearly all of the students are students with needs,” Roberts said. “The scholarships that we use are, in a way, a combination of need and merit. However, students that are receiving these merit scholarships exclusively or very often have need-based financial aid as well.”
Roberts says the admissions process is slightly different for QuestBridge and Posse applicants than it is for regular University applicants.
“For QuestBridge, they have their own application — the timing is just different and it occurs usually in the fall,” Roberts said. “But the admissions portion of it, reading the transcripts, essays and recommendations is exactly the same.”
Posse applicants, meanwhile, undergo a slightly different process.
“We fly out to Houston in December, and we select the Posse finalists — … we interview them face to face,” Roberts said. “This is our first year with Posse — we’re very excited to be partnering with them.”
The Virginia Department of Education also offers smaller scholarship opportunities for higher education available to all Virginia high school students.
The Granville P. Meade Foundation gives scholarships to “worthy and financially disadvantaged Virginia high school seniors [who are attending] one of Virginia’s public or private colleges or universities,” according to their website.
The Granville P. Meade Foundation gives scholarships
to “worthy and financially disadvantaged Virginia
high school seniors [who are attending] one of
Virginia’s public or private colleges or universities.”
Students must submit an application to their school, which the principal then submits to the division’s superintendent. The superintendent chooses five qualified students from each division to receive a scholarship of $2,000 a year for four years.
The Lee-Jackson Foundation also provides scholarships to junior or senior Virginia high school students for “outstanding essays which demonstrate an appreciation of the exemplary character and soldierly virtues of Generals Lee and Jackson.” The foundation awards one $2,000 scholarship and one $1,000 scholarship to two public school students, as well as one $1,000 scholarship and one $2,000 scholarship to private school or home-schooled students.
The student who has the best essay in the state receives an additional $8,000 scholarship. The foundation only requires applicants “demonstrate the natural ability to succeed in college and have a sincere desire to attend.” Financial need is not a requirement.
ISC and IFC Scholarships
But tuition is not the only cost facing students. Many on-Grounds opportunities have additional price tags, and while scholarships exist for things like study abroad, Greek life is largely financially independent from the University.
For this reason, both the Inter-Sorority Council and the Inter-Fraternity Council offer scholarships, and individual chapters offer scholarships to members.
ISC President Julia Pedrick, a third-year College student, said the ISC offers three scholarships to involved students who face financial hurdles in maintaining membership in the Greek community.
“The ISC is involved in three scholarships: New Member Scholarship, Greek Endowed Scholarship and Outstanding Member Scholarship,” Pedrick said in an email. “All three scholarships are based on academics, involvement and need. Students chosen as recipients of the scholarships almost always show strong involvement within their chapter — which a lot of the time includes chapter leadership — involvement in some way within their Council, strong academics, based off of transcript and GPA, and financial need as explained in their essays.”
“Our scholarships strive to assist our most dedicated
and involved members in their financial obligations,”
Pedrick said. “The process is thorough and thoughtful.
The scholarships vary in amount. Most are divided up so more people can benefit — for example, the Greek-Endowed Scholarship is given to three or four recipients, and is also split between the ISC, IFC, National Pan-Hellenic Conference and the Multi-Cultural Greek Council.
Pedrick said the goal of ISC scholarships is to help women in Greek life at the University with financial needs.
“Our scholarships strive to assist our most dedicated and involved members in their financial obligations,” Pedrick said. “The process is thorough and thoughtful.”
Ahmed said QuestBridge has had a significant effect on her University experience, and she ultimately hopes to help other low-income students come to the University.
“QuestBridge alleviates the financial burden by giving you a free application to anywhere you want to go — they really put low-income students at the same playing field as everyone else,” Ahmed said. “When you’re a student here, it’s sort of the spirit of QuestBridge to be on the other side of it and to encourage low-income students that they can go to college. It made me realize that I am really passionate about higher education.”
Ahmed also said low-income students who are considering the University do not always identify with the school right away.
“Things like the Honor system and secret societies — that’s important to us, but that can be off-putting to lower-income students,” Ahmed said. “They come here and say ‘I can’t see myself here,’ so one way that my experience has been molded through QuestBridge is being able to be on the other side and say, ‘You are capable.’”